By Silas Nyanchwani
Sometime in 2008-2011, Somali pirates were controlling the Indian Ocean trade route, insanely hurting our import and export businesses.
Soon, the money found its way to Kenya, and in the post Post-Election-Violence, recession, this money from piracy bought property in Nairobi, shooting property prices to the sky.
Around 2010, the Daily Nation carried a headline story that there was about Sh 160 billion in the economy that Central Bank could not account for and the only rational explanation was piracy money being laundered through the system. How incompetent can a Central Bank be?
With goods leaking through the border and ending in our markets untaxed, KRA started to perform dismally in tax collection. It was in our national interest to go to war with Somali. To make it worse, al-shabab started kidnapping tourists and it is about this time tourism started slumping, hitting its all time low, in 2014. Thankfully Najib Balala knows how to kick ass.
With this in mind, we went to Somali to dismantle the al-shabab network, first by closing the Kisimayu port which finances their operations. This we succeeded even if we have had to lose lives of both our soldiers and civilians across the country, from Garissa to Westgate, matatus, you name it.
I will not go into the issue if the soldiers need to come back or not.
But I want to point out something briefly about where our country stands.
Chinua Achebe in his 1982 classic “The Trouble with Nigeria”, he said “the trouble with Nigeria, squarely lay with leadership.”
So what is Kenya’s biggest trouble? Isn’t time we confronted this ugly reality. The trouble with Kenya is the absence of values.
To me it is an ethical problem. We sold our values at independence. Corruption is a symptom of a country that has failed morally and ethically. There is a connection between the runway crime currently sweeping the Nairobian street and neighbourhoods and the unending corruption headlines that have dogged us in recent times. There is a conection between the street children you see in the streets, the mothers with toddlers exposing them to the pneumonia and other vagaries and children being tear-gassed in their playing field that a politician wants to grab.
When someone wants to grab land meant for children, that is someone with no sense of the future. When that happens and you see a woman posing as critically sick in need of medical care abroad and later dead, and goes to buy space in the media so as to fool people into contributing money to a certain account, you realise the problem runs deep. We have become soulless.
In the past, land meant for cemeteries has been stolen. School grounds have been grabbed. Nothing is too sacred as not to be grabbed.
Our love for money, is our biggest undoing. We love money so much that we even kill for it. See all those guys who have died on Eastern bypass to Mboi-I-Kamiti and everywhere in the country and you see our love for money is taking the country down the grave.
When KDF were accused that they are only staying in Somali for charcoal, poaching and other illicit business affairs, we should have been worried. War anywhere is about plunder, rape, murder and such. But the war in Somali can only be truly won if we were all patriotic and love Kenya as not to hawk the country. If they left Somali today, al-shabab, through their diverse networks will still smuggle their goods to Kenya and may even resume their piracy and they will still hurt the our businesses.
Way forward, we need to secure our borders, KRA and Central Bank should make it impossible to launder money in Kenya. All property must be registered and taxed and we follow through everything. But this is a far fetched dream. Most of our key institutions are infiltrated by individuals eager to get rich like yesterday.
And sadly, the wealth they want for themselves is just money, land property. Beyond that nothing.
If we made it impossible for the al-Shabab types to set up business in Kenya, they may be forced to make things functional in their country and make money from normal taxation processes like any othery other country.
Otherwise, no amount of staying there, without attendant cleaning of and rectifying our moral and ethical approach is going to work. They know we are venal and that is our weakness. Think about it. Corruption kills in every way.